One of the visitors to the Yukon Quest office last week asked me an interesting question, one that forced me to think for a second before answering. I had just explained that I would be running the Iditarod in 2012, and he asked “what are your goals for the race?”
“Ah Ha” me thinks, here is someone who understands the fine art of setting goals. For many people simply saying I was running the race would be a goal enough. But for folks who have found a way to harness the motivational power of goals they recognize that I simply stated what I would be doing. There were no SMART goals expressed, no outcomes or process outlined, hence there was really nothing I could be working on specifically to move me toward a defined successful outcome, ergo “big whoop”.
He wanted to know what I intended to do to get myself to a place I would be satisfied with. And answering that is a lot harder.
~Flashback to video from Dan’s Phone of the 2011 Iditarod Start~
Oh what was that? Never heard of SMART goals? Well let me introduce you to an idea that should be in everyone’s personal toolbox for life. Setting goals as a way of making plans for change, or drawing the road map to where you want to be.
From the article: Personal Goal Setting at MindTools
A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART mnemonic. While there are plenty of variants (some of which we’ve included in parenthesis), SMART usually stands for:
- S – Specific (or Significant).
- M – Measurable (or Meaningful).
- A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented).
- R – Relevant (or Rewarding).
- T – Time-bound (or Trackable).
For example, instead of having “To sail around the world” as a goal, it’s more powerful to say “To have completed my trip around the world by December 31, 2015.” Obviously, this will only be attainable if a lot of preparation has been completed beforehand!
In order to really take advantage of goals there is one more area of theory I would like to share with y’all. There are different types of goals, with different purposes.
From the Article: Goal-Setting For Sport Performance Enhancement
Problem 3 – Athletes Frequently Set the Wrong Kinds of Goals. One of the most common mistakes in goal-setting is creating too many goals about how you perform compare to others. Attaining goals like winning a competition or beating a rival depend, not only on your performance, but also on the performance of others. Goals that depend on how you compare to others are called outcome goals… Relying solely on outcome goals, (for example, finishing first in an important competition), can also leave you frustrated if another competitor happens to have the competition of their life in the same competition you wanted to win.
Setting Performance and Process Goals
Instead of relying on just outcome goals, set goals for your personal performance independent of others. … Performance goals are helpful because they focus you on what you need to accomplish to compete at your peak and reach the outcome goals that are most important for you.
Additionally, set goals for what you have to do during a race to perform your best. … Think of process goals as the specific things you need to do to reach your performance and outcome goals. Setting a combination of outcome, performance, and process goals will help you stay focused, increase your motivation, and help you structure your training.
Setting goals for ourselves can actually be a fun and useful exercise, with more to it then I* often attribute to or invest in it. And if given the proper time and attention the goal setting process is one of discovery and excitement. Allowing us to envision what we are capable of in great ways, and then define the steps it will take to get us there. Not that goal setting is a set equation, but it does take some serious time to look at the main objective, and the parts that make it up. Then start thinking through what steps are needed, and how you can measurably define them. Laying it all out is the road-map to getting there, and is a great way to plot your progress.
*Yes I said I, not going to be pointing any fingers here today. But will openly admit that I am as guilty as anyone of taking short cuts with the goal setting process. Usually I think in more general terms, and come up with themes that blossom into action plans. And I am horrible about actually putting pen to paper and writing it all out. But as I have plunked down my entry fee for Iditarod 2012 it is time to seriously look at what I hope to accomplish and what I need to do now to make that happen.
So back to the statement, “I am running the Iditarod in 2012″
Which prompted the question, “what are your goals for the race?”
I have lots of them, some are personal, some strategic, some are logistic. They fall into all three categories: Outcome, Performance, and Process; and slowly I am making sure in my head they are all clear and fit the SMART criteria. (they are not written down yet, and all things considered I may never make the time for that step) And No it is not to early to be thinking about and working towards them. Never to early.
Outcome goals are the most dangerous. You have the least control over these, as you can not control your competition, the weather, or a million other things that all directly impact the outcome. But they still give you something to shoot for. This year I would like to be in consideration for the Vet’s Choice award. And in Iditarod in order for that to happen you have to place in the top 20. I realize this will be difficult, and I may not achieve it, but it is still something valuable for me to work toward. The Vet’s Choice award is probably the most prestigious recognition a musher can be awarded. The nice thing for me about phrasing my goal in this way is the positivity of it. Because no matter where I end up in the places, my goal is phrased in a way that stresses the importance of caring for my team to the best of my ability. And to be fair this is a recycled goal, as this idea is one that has always guided me as I race.
I have a few performance goals, and as the season progresses I expect there to be more goals and some general evolution here, as ‘performance’ is a work in progress. But one clear performance goal for me is to not make repeat mistakes. In order to do this I had to be honest in assessing the mistakes that were made last year, and then establish some process goals to deal with them so I could avoid them in the future. The process goals are the steps I am taking to make sure I am prepared and able to meet my performance and outcome goals.
One important performance goal I will share with you. I want to have more fun.
I know that when I am relaxed, out on the trail loving life with my kids, then everything just works better. And as part of my honest assessment about last years performance I have to admit that nerves and pressure got to me more then I had hoped it would during the beginning of the Iditarod. The first day you just can not imagine the crowds. A trail completely lined with people for hours. The excitement is overwhelming. The kids and I just do not spend much time in crowds like that. And well into the night, the groups of race fans and supporters out on the river, having picnics, around bone fires, cheering. They get out there by snow machine and private plane. Being passed on that first day by Aliy Zirkle I asked “when will it quite down?” “Oh by the Yukon” she joked, “No really it will calm down after dark” She was right. But day one was as many people as I had seen in one day since I don’t know when. My arm was completely waved out. All but lost my voice yelling “thank you” to crowds that probably could not hear me anyhow. Now that’s a mistake I will not make again, I need my voice to communicate with the team.
This year I think I can use the lessons learned and be better prepared mentally for what I am getting into. I think I really can have more fun. Now I am not saying I did not have fun, I had a BLAST! Almost making “The Steps”. The musher mochas at Ravenwood. Seeing the picture of a dear friend (now gone) in the Grayling school. Middie Johnson and the awesome king crab at the Unalakleet checkpoint. The beauty on the run to Shacktoolik. Sharing desserts and laughs with Ed Stielstra. I am very lucky to have such great memories of my time on the Iditarod trail. So please understand, I am not complaining. Yes I know it is an adventure race, and that Mother Nature is one mean dance partner. I am not saying I want an easier race. This is just my way of reminding myself attitude is a choice, and to choose positive. To not let things get me down. It can be hard when your tired, well beyond tired really, and have hours by yourself on the trail with your thoughts to go over every perceived mistake in excruciating detail. But ultimately you control the voices in your sleep deprived addled brain, and that same time can just as easily be used to plan proactively how your going to proceed. Simply stated, one of this year’s important performance goals, to relax and have more fun.
Some wonderful thoughts from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, to help me with my goal.
“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
More video from Dan’s phone, this time leaving Safety on the way to Nome: